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Canadian Astronauts

An astronaut is an individual involved in flight beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the Canadian Space Agency held its first recruitment campaign in 1983, 14 Canadians have completed astronaut training and nine have participated in 17 missions to space. Specifically, they have flown as payload specialists, mission specialists, and flight engineers on NASA shuttle flights and expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS). Canadian astronauts have played key roles in repairing satellites and building the ISS using the Canadarm and Canadarm2 robotic technologies, and have advanced scientific knowledge by conducting a variety of experiments in space.

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Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell, teacher of the deaf, inventor, scientist (born 3 March 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland; died 2 August 1922 near Baddeck, NS). Alexander Graham Bell is generally considered second only to Thomas Alva Edison among 19th- and 20th-century inventors. Although he is best known as the inventor of the first practical telephone, he also did innovative work in other fields, including aeronautics, hydrofoils and wireless communication (the “photophone”). Moreover, Bell himself considered his work with the deaf to be his most important contribution. Born in Scotland, he emigrated to Canada in 1870 with his parents. Bell married American Mabel Hubbard in 1877 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1882. From the mid-1880s, he and his family spent their summers near Baddeck on Cape Breton Island, where they built a large home, Beinn Bhreagh. From then on, Bell divided his time and his research between the United States and Canada. He died and was buried at Baddeck in 1922.

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Roland Galarneau

Roland Galarneau, CM, machinist and inventor (born 16 February 1922 in HullQuebec; died 22 May 2011 in Hull). In the late 1960s, Galarneau invented the Converto-Braille, a computerized printer capable of transcribing text into Braille at 100 words per minute. This was a landmark innovation for people with visual impairments, as it increased their access to textbooks and other written information. Galarneau developed faster versions of the Converto-Braille in the 1970s. The company he founded eventually adapted the machine into software for IBM computers in the 1980s. This software was a precursor of the Braille software used today.

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Elsie MacGill

Elizabeth (Elsie) Muriel Gregory MacGill, OC, aeronautical engineer, feminist (born 27 March 1905 in Vancouver, BC; died 4 November 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts). Elsie MacGill was the first woman to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (1929). She was also the first practising Canadian woman engineer. In 1938, she became chief aeronautical engineer of Canadian Car & Foundry (Can Car). There, she headed the Canadian production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes during the Second World War. An active feminist, MacGill was national president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (1962–64). She was also a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada (1967–70).

Key Facts
Born 27 March 1905, died 4 November 1980
First woman aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer
Key Canadian feminist
Oversaw production of fighter planes during WWII  
Nicknamed “Queen of the Hurricanes”

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Paul David

Pierre Paul David, CC, OQ, cardiologist and senator (born 25 December 1919 in Montréal, QC; died 5 April 1999 in Montréal).

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Evelyn Nelson

Evelyn Merle Roden Nelson, mathematician, professor (born 25 November 1943 in Hamilton, ON; died 1 August 1987 in Hamilton, ON). A brilliant mathematical mind, Evelyn Nelson fought gender barriers in a discipline long dominated by men to become a rising star in the field both in Canada and abroad. She contributed to the fields of universal algebra, equational compactness and formal language theory. Nelson was particularly interested in applying universal algebra to the then-burgeoning field of computer science. She was a devoted teacher, sought-after research partner and the author of over 40 publications during what was a tragically short career.

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Hadfield Prepares for Space

As a boy growing up on his father's farm just west of Toronto, nine-year-old Chris Hadfield was so spellbound by Neil Armstrong's historic moon walk on July 20, 1969, that he promptly decided to become an astronaut himself.

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Peter Henderson Bryce

Peter Henderson Bryce, physician, public health official (born 17 August 1853 in Mount Pleasant, Canada West; died 15 January 1932 at sea). Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce was a pioneer of public health and sanitation policy in Canada. He is most remembered for his efforts to improve the health and living conditions of Indigenous people. His Report on the Indian Schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories exposed the unsanitary conditions of residential schools in the Prairie provinces. It also prompted national calls for residential school reform.

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John Porter

John Arthur Porter, sociologist (born 12 November 1921 in Vancouver, BC; died 15 June 1979 in at Ottawa, ON). Regarded by many as Canada's leading English-language sociologist, Porter is best known for his monumental work, The Vertical Mosaic, published 1965.

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Rose Johnstone

Rose Mamelak Johnstone, FRSC, biochemist (born 14 May 1928 in Lodz, Poland; died 3 July 2009 in Montreal, QC). Rose Johnstone is best known for her discovery of exosomes, a key development in the field of cell biology. These tiniest of structures originating in all cells of the human body are vehicles that transport proteins, lipids and RNA from one cell to another. A pioneer of women in science, Johnstone was the first woman to hold the Gilman Cheney Chair in Biochemistry and the first and only woman chair of the Department of Biochemistry in McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine.

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Steven Guilbeault

Steven Guilbeault, PC, MP, ecologist, author, columnist and lecturer (born 9 June 1970 in La Tuque, Quebec). In 2009, French magazine Le Monde recognized Guilbeault as one of the world’s 50 leading figures in the field of sustainable development. The Cercle des Phénix de l’environnement du Québec also recognized Guilbeault the same year. Guilbeault earned recognition through his work with Greenpeace and as a co-founder of Équiterre. He also served as a columnist for various media outlets, including Métro, Radio-Canada, La Presse and Corporate Knight magazine. During the 2019 federal election, Guilbeault was elected the Liberal Member of Parliament for Montreal’s Laurier─Sainte-Marie riding. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Guilbeault to his Cabinet as minister of Canadian heritage.

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Veena Rawat

Veena Rawat, OC, electrical engineer, civil servant, telecommunications pioneer (born in 1945 in India). Veena Rawat spent nearly 40 years in public service, serving in leadership positions in management and policy development with Industry Canada. A trailblazer in the telecommunications sector, Rawat was the first female to complete a doctorate in electrical engineering at Queen’s University and was the first female president of Industry Canada’s Communication Research Centre. Rawat has been a leading voice in the creation of global regulatory structures for radio spectrum management, championing efforts to make broadband service affordable to all and bring it to remote and rural regions. She is an advocate for gender equality in STEM sectors and increasing women’s presence in engineering fields.

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Donna Strickland

Donna Theo Strickland, CC, physicist (born 27 May 1959 in Guelph, ON). Donna Strickland is a pioneering physicist, known for her work on ultrafast lasers. She is currently a professor of physics at the University of Waterloo. She has authored more than 90 publications and has made seminal contributions to the field of laser technology. In 2018, Strickland was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work on the development of laser technology.

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Emily Stowe

Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, physician, teacher, school principal, suffragist (born 1 May 1831 in Norwich, Ontario; died 30 April 1903 in Toronto, Ontario). Stowe was a founder of the Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association. She is considered to be the first female physician to publicly practise medicine in Ontario. She was also the first female principal of a public school in Ontario. 

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Irene Uchida

Irene Ayako Uchida, OC, geneticist (born 8 April 1917 in Vancouver, BC; died 30 July 2013 in Toronto, ON). Dr. Uchida pioneered the field of cytogenetics in Canada, enabling early screening for chromosomal abnormalities (i.e., changes in chromosomes caused by genetic mutations). She discovered that women who receive X-rays during pregnancy have a higher chance of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. She also discovered that the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome may come from either parent, not only the mother.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

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Ursula Franklin

Ursula Martius Franklin, CC, OOnt, FRSC, physicist, educator, feminist and social activist (born 16 September 1921 in Munich, Germany; died 22 July 2016 in Toronto, Ontario). A specialist in the structure of metals and alloys, she pioneered the development of archaeometry, which applies modern techniques of materials analysis to archaeology. After working as a senior research scientist for the Ontario Research Foundation (1952–67), she joined the University of Toronto’s Department of Metallurgy and Materials Science (now the Department of Materials Science and Engineering) in 1967. She won many awards for her innovative scientific and humanitarian work, including the Pearson Peace Medal (2002).

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Beatrice Worsley

Beatrice (Trixie) Helen Worsley, computer scientist, professor (born 18 October 1921 in Queretaro, Mexico; died 8 May 1972 in Waterloo, Ontario). Worsley was a pioneering researcher in the emerging field of computer science. She conducted research and taught at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Worsley is considered to be the first female computer scientist in Canada and was honoured with a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Association of Computer Science in 2014.

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